I hate that expression. It’s like the cheap sentimentality that you’d find inside a greeting card with a picture of a kitten on the front. It reeks of insincerity. It used to be an American thing, but now it has infiltrated the BBC and it gets my goat.
Where did it come from? As far as I can remember, it used to be used solely by fictional undertakers when referring to the recently deceased. Now it has been extended to include the possibly deceased.
Is it just lazy journalists who can’t be bothered to say “friends and family”? Perhaps there isn’t a single word which encompasses acquaintances, those related by blood, partners both legal and common-law including their blood relations, etc., but as a journalist they should try harder and think up something.
I’ve tried to decide why I hate it so.
I think partly it’s because it is usually associated with the intrusion of reporters on the potentially bereaved, who are awaiting “news of their loved ones”. With a close-up of tears on photogenic faces.
And partly it’s the plain awkwardness of it. “Ones”? Surely there can’t be more than one “one”. Simply saying “loves” should suffice, as in “the loves of your life”, but that makes the hypocrisy a little too visible.
But mostly it is the mawkish implication that you must “love” anybody that you are concerned about. Missing family members might well be unloved and it is entirely possible to empathise with the plight of people who you have never even met. It is the emotional exaggeration for effect which rankles. Everything has to be elevated to a human tragedy.
Don’t get me started on that Lady Diana thing.